President Barack Obama cannot select the most liberal possible candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court and should seek a "consensus" pick who could attract Republican support, Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday.
A fierce political fight is brewing as the Democratic president prepares to name a successor to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Saturday. Obama's nominee could change the court's balance of power. Scalia's death left it with four conservative and four liberal justices.
Many Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said the seat should remain vacant until Obama's successor takes office next January so voters can have a say in the selection when they choose a new president in the Nov. 8 election.
"The Senate gets to have a say," Biden, a former senator, told Minnesota Public Radio in an interview broadcast on Thursday. "In order to get this done, the president is not going to be able to go out, nor would it be his instinct anyway, to pick the most liberal jurist in the nation and put them on the court."
The Senate, whose Republican majority would be unlikely to embrace any selection seen as particularly liberal, must confirm nominees picked for lifetime appointments to the nation's highest court.
"There are plenty of judges who are on high courts already who have had unanimous support of the Republicans. This should be someone who, in fact, is a consensus and whereby we can generate enough support to get a person passed," Biden said.
Biden said Obama "has allowed me to be a partner" in the process of finding a nominee.